Puerto Ricans treasure the right to freedom of expression, one of the pillars of democracy. Throughout our history, citizens have courageously defended it.
As part of May Day events, Puerto Ricans marched openly expressing their demands to the government and to society.
Contrary to what happened in 2017 and 2018, when violence clouded the event, this May Day march, led by public employees and students, did not show significant confrontations. Despite some moments of tension between groups of demonstrators and the police, there were no violent clashes.
A dynamic negotiation between the event organizers and law enforcement authorities led to protests moving along the metropolitan sections planned by the workers. The event coincided with the first day in office of the new Public Safety Secretary Elmer Román. We hope that this successful communication will prevail.
The coordinated effort of the different sectors allowed participants to exercise their right to freedom of expression without affecting a good part of the academic, commercial and industrial activities, among others that are essential for the economy. Some sectors adjusted their operations before the uncertainty created by previous protests. It is important that all sectors contribute to strengthening Puerto Rico's good image before the world, as part of the revitalization project.
At the end of the demonstration, which lasted from mid-morning to shortly before 3:00 p.m., Governor Ricardo Rosselló Nevares congratulated the demonstrators for expressing themselves peacefully, and thanked the Police for their work. Union leaders, on the other hand, were satisfied with the activity that integrated several public employees and retired workers.
A group of demonstrators walked to La Fortaleza taking a letter with a list of core demands focused on labor protections. Some petitions seek to protect pensions and to remove legislation to eliminate compulsory membership for certain professions.
The letter represents an opportunity for constructive dialogue between the unions and the government. We hope that this dialogue will contribute to the appropriate climate to settle differences in a scenario of fiscal insufficiency aggravated by indebtedness and a decade-long recession.
In the island´s critical scenario, workers are essential to boost the economy. Their feelings must also be included in the efforts to restructure the public debt that has driven Puerto Rico into fiscal bankruptcy and prevents the island´s access to capital markets.
Therefore, it will be crucial to implement reforms and restructurings that will modify traditional work scenarios, but that will also promote new forms of production and innovation that will lead to the island´s sustainable growth.
These changes should lead, among other initiatives, to retraining and job creation in innovative fields as part of global production changes. Before these transformations, Puerto Rico must be at the forefront and face the challenges with the support of investors, companies and the workforce.
Constructive dialogue between government and workers seeking common well being is vital in this stage of change and, as it happened yesterday, an environment of respect framed in fundamental constitutional rights, such as that to free expression, must prevail.
Workers commitment to their jobs with dedication and steadiness is an important aspect to boost the economy. Dialogue and negotiation spaces through the current transformation process will be decisive for the Puerto Rican recovery.